English or Sidespin is an advanced technique in billiards. I would advise newer players not to use english until they have a good understanding and enough experience with the basic (no side spin) shots like stop (center ball hit), draw (under spin), and follow (top spin).
English makes the process of aiming a little more difficult because of the effects of curve and throw. I will discuss these terms next. First, take a look at the different ways you can hit the cue ball to apply english or sidespin(Figure 1).
As you can see from Figure 1, you can apply english or sidespin in a number of ways. You can hit the cue ball on the left side which is normally called LEFT english or you can hit the cue ball on the right side normally called RIGHT ENGLISH. You can also apply the stop (center ball hit), draw (below center hit) or follow (above center hit) with english. English applied with draw is normally called low english while english applied with follow is called high english.
Figure 1: Cue ball Hit Points
One of the effects of english or sidespin on the cue ball is what is called Deflection or Squirt. Basically, the cue ball does not travel the same path that your cue stick is aiming when english is applied to it. Because of the sidespin, the cue ball will tend to slightly travel in the opposite direction of your english. In other words, if you put a left english or left side spin on the cue ball, the cue ball will travel slightly to the right and vice-versa. Refer to Figure 2 below. The white line indicates the path of the cue ball when hit with no english or sidespin, the black line indicates the path of the cue ball when hit with left english. Notice the deflection effect towards the right?.
Figure 2: Cue Ball Deflection
One thing that makes english difficult is that it is hard to estimate the amount of deflection that you will get on the cue ball. Only with enough experience will you be able to make a good estimate unless you're a genius at math and you can figure it out using your own mathematical formula :-) Anyway, like I said the amount of deflection is dependent on the following:
Video courtesy of Dr. Dave and The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards at www.engr.colostate.edu/pool/
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